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Hot Bulb Sparks Giant N.Y. Fire

November 10, 2016

LACKAWANNA, N.Y. — More than 100 firefighters struggled to contain a massive blaze at a former Bethlehem Steel site that is believed to have broken out early Nov. 10 when a hot light bulb fell onto cardboard inside a business, authorities said.

Fred Heinle, the director of development for the city of Lackawanna, told reporters the fire started when the bulb fell on some combustibles inside a sprawling building that houses several businesses at the industrial site just south of Buffalo.

Authorities said later that the official cause was still under investigation.

Television news footage showed the six-block-long building engulfed in flames as massive clouds of black smoke billowed away from nearby homes, and video images showed the roof of the building collapsing.

The intense smoke, which could be seen for miles, prompted authorities to issue a shelter-in-place order for nearby residents.

Health officials cautioned people to avoid contact with the smoke, which they said may contain unknown particles and chemicals.

The smoke spewed into the evening from the building, which includes recycling and storage businesses. People living next door to the property reported hearing explosions soon after the fire started.

No injuries were reported.

The fire departments from Lackawanna and neighboring Buffalo and other communities responded to the blaze around 7:30 a.m., bringing more than 100 firefighters on the scene, according to Buffalo Fire Commissioner Garnell W. Whitfield, Jr.

He said plastic recycling was among the materials inside the building, but firefighters were being kept outside because the roof and some walls had collapsed.

“This is going to be quite a massive operation,” Whitfield said. The fire had still not been declared under control by late Wednesday night. Officials said schools in the area would be closed Nov. 10.

Bethlehem Steel operated its sprawling Lackawanna for decades before ending operations in the 1980’s.

The property is now home to an industrial park that includes a Republic Steel manufacturing plant and a storage business.

(CAROLYN THOMPSON)

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